The Church gave us a great gift in the timing of the beatification of John Paul II this past May on Divine Mercy Sunday, a feast which was so close to his heart. During his life and pontificate, Blessed John Paul II not only decried the culture of death but gave us a new language in his call to help build a culture of life.
He put Church teaching on love and responsibility to new music—what is known as the theology of the body. It is a vision of human sexuality ordered by mature self-giving and openness to children, a proposal meant to be presented always with mercy and love. To do otherwise would be like putting salt on the open wounds of a culture suffering the cruel and often bewildering effects of rampant sexual disorder.
I don’t know if Dorothy Day will be canonized. But to suggest that the nature of her sins might keep her out of the Communion of Saints is only to divide and hurt souls who should be uplifted by the example of the trajectory of her life.
Everyone who is pro-life—and we can be Right or Left or somewhere in the middle and be so—ought to take Day’s words about the genocide, about the disgust, to heart, remembering also that with God, all is forgiven—sexual sins, even lethal ones.
In 2000, the late John Cardinal O’Connor, bishop of New York, compared her conversion to Saint Augustine’s.
In announcing the opening of her cause for sainthood, he wrote of Day:
“To be sure, her life is a model for all in the third millenium, but especially for women who have had or are considering abortions. It is a well-known fact that Dorothy Day procured an abortion before her conversion to the Faith. She regretted it every day of her life. After her conversion from a life akin to that of the pre-converted Augustine of Hippo, she proved a stout defender of human life. The conversion of mind and heart that she exemplified speaks volumes to all women today on two fronts. First, it demonstrates the mercy of God, mercy in that a woman who sinned so gravely could find such unity with God upon conversion. Second, it demonstrates that one may turn from the ultimate act of violence against innocent life in the womb to a position of total holiness and pacifism. In short, I contend that her abortion should not preclude her cause, but intensifies it.”
Whatever our sins, there is the confessional waiting. It is our way to freedom. The freedom to be a saint, fed and nourished by the graces of our lives lived in the sacraments of our Lord. Dorothy Day knew that freedom, thanks be to God. There is no foundation to a culture of life without it.
A version of this originally appeared on the Catholic Eye newsletter published by National Committee of Catholic Laymen.